Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jesus Walks Among the Churches

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
Revelation 1:12-16 NIV

When the Apostle John, lost in the Spirit one Sunday on Patmos, was blasted from behind by the trumpet like voice of Christ, he wasn't sure at first what was going on. He turned to behold a heavenly vision replete with symbolism and type. His heavenly vision has been the source of conjecture and confusion for the rest of us ever since, but it was not the author's intent that it to be so apprehended (or misapprehended). John's (and Jesus', the ultimate author) intent was clarity and applicability, but the church's interpretation has been mostly ethereal and cloudy.

The encouraging purpose and the revelation of watchful care conveyed in the opening lines of the prophecy are reiterated in the first vignette of the vision. Jesus, risen in glory, ruling in majesty from the heavenlies walks among the lampstands (or churches). Often, we think of him as far off, separated from the world we live in, in heaven out of direct touch. We have our job to do here, he has his to do there, at the end of time our paths will cross again. The vision says, "not so, that's not the way it works!"

Christ is intimately and actively engaged with the church in the here and now. In his hand, I would say as a symbol of doing his bidding, are the angels of the churches. They express his action and execute his command. They serve the heirs of salvation, and (I would add) fight for them. Each people may have its own prince, but each church definitely has its own star (see this).

Christ walks among us, his word sharp, dividing asunder soul and spirit. A word of power and life, strong not just in the heavenlies, but out here in Lampstand Land too. A word we have been given to proclaim, which even as we do, is uttered fresh from heaven--not an old, stale word, but one uttered in the always present. It may have been reduced to writing 2000 years ago, but it's being spoken with effect from heaven now.

His description is filled out in chapter three where we're told that in addition to the seven stars, the sevenfold Spirit before God's throne is also in his hand. Can you say filioque? Certainly, the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift we receive from the hand of Christ, but I think the image also speaks to our active means of connecting to, or fellowshipping with Christ, the risen Lord. After all, it's not bread and wine in his hand, nor a vial of holy water, but the sevenfold Spirit. 

The church is a place where Jesus walks and his presence is communicated through the Holy Spirit.